Tweaks made to Android OS are causing massive security holes

Last month, I used up a good chunk of text talking about how much I’ve come to enjoy using Android-powered smartphones. Unfortunately, a story I ran across over at Wired has convinced me that, at least for the time being, spending significantly more time with my iPhone 6 Plus might be a good idea.

According to the report, for many Android users, it’s not necessary to download an altered .APK file from a shady torrenting website or click an email link that’ll fill your handset up with malware in order to compromise your smartphone’s security. Twenty-five different Android smartphone models, made by well-known manufacturers and available across North America, have been found to be full of security flaws and other exploitable nightmares baked into them. The most frustrating part of it all: none of the exploits detailed in the story would be there if the manufacturers had their shit together

From Wired:

The potential outcomes of the vulnerabilities range in severity, from being able to lock someone out of their device to gaining surreptitious access to its microphone and other functions. They all share one common trait, though: They didn’t have to be there.

Instead, they’re a byproduct of an open Android operating system that lets third-party companies modify code to their own liking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it allows for differentiation, which gives people more choice. Google will release a vanilla version of Android Pie this fall, but it’ll eventually come in all kinds of flavors.

Those modifications lead to headaches, though, including the well-established problem of delays in shipping security updates.

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Augmented reality software shows where pipes and other underground structures are

Geographic information systems used to be 2-D maps, but new AR technologies are letting users see where pipes and other underground infrastructure is through augmented reality .

Brief video showcasing a few features of the vGIS Utilities system (http://www.vgis.io/). vGIS Utilities is the most advanced augmented reality solution for GIS designed specifically with utilities, municipalities and GIS service providers in mind. The system connects to Esri ArcGIS to seamlessly convert traditional 2D GIS data into powerful, accurate and stable 3D visuals.

vGIS is the only system that supports the full spectrum of technologies - augmented reality (Android and iOS), mixed reality (HoloLens) and virtual reality.

The system is deployed in at over 40 sites across the world to bring real-life benefits to municipalities, utilities, locate service providers and multiple other organizations.

The most advanced AR system for GIS - vGIS Utilities (YouTube / Meemim vGIS) Read the rest

Watch how far green screen technology has come

BBC got to be the first to tour Intel Studios, a state of the art greenscreen facility, with no suits, no motion capture, just a live performance captured in a green dome by hundreds of cameras. Read the rest

Video explainer on universal quantum computers

Universal quantum computers have the potential for exponentially faster processing speeds. Seeker looks at where things stand in the race to build the first one. Read the rest

These "smart skin" stickers are also speakers

These stickers, thinner than temporary tattoos, have a grid of silver wires in them that make sound when electrified. They also work as microphones.

From ScienceMag:

After receiving an electric audio signal from a music player, the tiny loudspeaker heats up the wire grid to about 33°C, which replicates the sound pattern by changing the pressure of the surrounding air. Our ears pick up these changes in air pressure as sound waves.

The microphone operates in reverse, converting speech sound waves back into an electric signal, which can then be stored and played back by a smartphone or computer. It can detect sound waves coming from the mouth, but it can also recognize words simply from the rumbling of the vocal cords through the skin, the team reports today in Science Advances.

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Unregulated fertility technologies are being used to create babies

Mitochindrial replacement techniques, which produce "three-parent babies," promise to allow infertile couples to have babies, and even allow people with debilitating genetic disorders to have healthy babies. The largely unregulated tech is already producing babies despite the unknown long-term risks. Read the rest

Time For America To Freak Out About 3-D Guns Again

None of the mass shootings in America have been committed by shooters using 3-D Guns, but that's not stopping Donald Trump and a bunch of NRA-backed lawmakers from freaking out about the threat DIY weapons pose, before doing anything about how readily available regular old guns are to regular old bad guys. Read the rest

I'm an Android loving iPhone user

Hardware reviews are a big part of how I put bread on the table. In order to do my job properly, I’ve got to be something of a platform agnostic.

While I do most of my writing using Apple devices, I also have to consider other platforms in my coverage: software that works well on a laptop running Windows 10 may be a dog’s breakfast on a MacBook once it’s been ported.

A bluetooth speaker that sound great when paired with my iPhone 7 Plus, for example, might sound like hot garbage when linked to another audio source. So I invest in other hardware that may not be used as part of my day-to-day life, but which I still need to think about when doing my job.

About six months ago, I came to the conclusion that maybe hauling the hardware out when it came time to test something and then throwing it back in a box when I’m done with it wasn’t enough: to really understand whether, say a pair of headphones that comes with an app to control their EQ or noise cancellation, without seeing how it fits into my day-to-day life using a given platform. So, I upped the amount of time that I spend working in Windows 10, I now read books on both Kobo and Amazon e-readers and, in a real shift in how I live my lift, I’ve spent more than half a year using Android-powered smartphones as my daily drivers. In the time since I last used an Android device as my go-to, things have improved so much, I was taken aback. Read the rest

Twitter stock drops 20.5% a day after Facebook suffers worst one-day drop in history

Twitter's stock closed 20.5% on Friday after the company announced it lost 1 million active users. More user loss is predicted. Read the rest

Bronze masks coated in Vantablack produce trippy illusions

The fine folks who created the world's blackest black now have a sprayable version that adheres to most stable surfaces. To demonstrate, they sprayed two bronze masks, one on the inside and one on the outside, producing an interesting optical illusion. Read the rest

Microscopic sensors in a spray bottle

MIT nanotechnologists fabricated microscopic chemical sensors that can be sprayed as an aerosol to monitor pollution, detect chemical leaks, or even ingested as a medical nasal spray. Each sensor chip is 110 micrometers across, about the width of a single human hair, just 1 micrometer thick, and powered by ambient light. From Science News:

Right now, researchers can determine whether their sensors have come in contact with certain particles only after the fact — by collecting the chips and hooking them up to electrodes. These electrodes test how easily electric current flows through a chip’s chemical detector, which reveals whether it touched a particular chemical after it was sprayed. But future sensors could emit light signals when in contact with target particles, says study coauthor Michael Strano, a chemical engineer at MIT....

Unlike silicon-based devices that might pose environmental or health hazards, the polymers and the minute amounts of 2-D materials used to make the new devices are expected to be more biofriendly, (says researcher Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh).

"Colloidal nanoelectronic state machines based on 2D materials for aerosolizable electronics" (Nature Nanotechnology) Read the rest

Watch how this chain-free bike operates

CeramicSpeed makes bikes that use a drive shaft instead of a chain. Shane Miller got a close look at Eurobike 2018. Read the rest

Sex-robot has "family mode" switch so kids can play with it. Ethicist says it is "profoundly damaging" to children

Aarran Lee Wright, 36, a married man and father of two young children, says his sex-robot can be switched to "family mode," for G-rated playtime with the kids.

From the NY Post:

Wright revealed that his children, aged three and five, play with Samantha and watch TV alongside her. And his wife said: “I am not worried she will replace me. She is just someone there like a family member.”

Now a group of professors have slammed the idea of a family-friendly sex robot as “damaging” for kids.

“Children will imitate machines if brought up by them,” Kathleen Richardson, professor of ethics and culture of robots and AI at De Montfort University, told New Statesmen.

“A daughter is going to grow up and think maybe this happened because Mommy wasn’t beautiful enough – am I?

“They’ll learn that women only have certain uses. Then they start to use that as a template for how they interact intimately with others – this is profoundly damaging.”

NSFW video:

Image: HAVC pipes by F. Javier Ballester/Shutterstock Read the rest

These nine companies are snapping up almost all the AI startups

In the current acquisition binge around artificial intelligence, tech behemoths with deep pockets lead the way, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, Twitter, and Salesforce. The only one with a limited consumer-facing presence is social monitoring firm Meltwater. Read the rest

The internet, 2008-2018: what's changed?

In 2008, Telstra Chief Scientist Geoff Huston wrote an informative and important retrospective on the shifts in internet technology since 1998; now, ten years later, he's written another one, tracing the remarkable shifts (and weirdly unbudgeable technological icebergs) in the past decade's worth of internet changes, advances and retreats. Read the rest

Watch a very detailed overview of the latest innovations for power in space

Improved super-thin solar panels and nuclear fission are all in development to handle the massive logistical problems of meeting power needs in space. Fraser Cain takes viewers through the newest developments, including NASA's new Kilopower Reactor. Read the rest

Amazing flying "dragon" robot that changes shape

This is the Dual-rotor embedded multilink Robot with the Ability of multi-deGree-of-freedom aerial transformatiON, aka DRAGON. Designed at the University of Tokyo, this modular bot can rearrange its shape, from an agile snake to a spiral to a flying "L" shape. From IEEE Spectrum:

What’s exciting, though, is why this robot was designed to transform in the first place. The video, which—spoiler alert—is actually a teaser for a 2018 IROS paper, shows the robot changing its shape in order to squeeze through a small gap, and we were told at ICRA that DRAGON is able to autonomously decide how to transform when given the constraints of the space it needs to pass through. There’s more potential here than just fitting through small spaces, though: The researchers conceptualize this robot as a sort of overactuated flying arm that can both form new shapes and use those shapes to interact with the world around it by manipulating objects. Eventually, DRAGON will wiggle through the air with as many as 12 interlinked modules, and it’ll use its two ends to pick up objects like a two-fingered gripper. And we can imagine DRAGON wrapping itself around stuff to move it, or using direct contact with the environment to do other exciting things.

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